In my introductory “Hopefully Coming Soon” blog, I said that I would feature the play with the most votes in our “Which Broadway show would you like to see in Atlanta?” poll in one of the August editions. Well, the votes are in, and War Horse won with 39% of the vote. The innovative, new play also won with Tony voters as it received a total of 5 competitive Tony Awards (including Best Play) and a Special Tony Award for Handspring Puppet Company’s work on the life-size puppets who star in the play.
Based on the book War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, Nick Stafford’s play follows a young boy’s quest to find and bring home his beloved horse, Joey, who was sold to a World War I Calvery. At the same time, Joey has experienced a harrowing journey of his own. The play premiered at London’s Royal National-Olivier Theatre in 2007 before opening on the West End at the New London Theatre in 2009. The Broadway production opened earlier this year at Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre.
Critics have heralded the play’s design, sound, and lighting, but most importantly, they singled out the puppets as a key component of the play’s success. In Thom Geier’s review for Entertainment Weekly, he states, “As manipulated by three handlers dressed in period costumes, the life-size creatures seem to breathe, snort, feed, walk, gallop, and rear up just as naturally as the genuine articles. In no time at all, they become characters as rounded and complex as any of the humans on stage.”
With so much resting on the audience’s connection with the horses, one may wonder whether this play will have a life in regional theatres that cannot afford puppets similar to those used on the West End and Broadway. This question will have to be pondered for a while since regional licensing possibilities are years off as the show continues to sell out the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on Broadway and is currently scheduled as an open-ended run. The show’s popularity could increase even more in December’s if Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation (using real horses instead of puppets) is successful.
Therefore, Atlantans wanting to experience War Horse must hope that the national tour gallops onto one of Atlanta’s touring venue’s stages. In May, it was announced that a national tour of War Horse will begin in the summer of 2012. At this time, Atlanta is not on the schedule that includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis and Philadelphia.
Broadway plays do not tour as often as musicals, and Atlanta rarely gets them. But, let’s hope that come fall of 2012 Atlanta made the cut and is on War Horse’s touring itinerary.
– A. Wesley